Are Characters Wish Fulfillment?

evilbookThere is an old general rule in writing that it isn’t such a good idea to put yourself in your books (or anyone else you know, for that matter), which is fair enough. On the face of it, it seems unnecessary, even self-indulgent, and runs the risk of kicking the fourth wall in the face if it is, in any way, obvious. Some genres perhaps lean more towards this being a natural thing – romance, perhaps (but I suspect it is more an idealised version of the writer there).

It is something I have vowed never do, until I realised that, in a way, I had done it without realising it. I should clarify that I don’t mean me exactly, a la Stan Lee, but fragments … ghosts of me. And suddenly I realised that it could be inevitable. The subconscious takes over. Pieces of yourself will creep into what you write in the same way that your inspirations and experiences can inform what you write, from locations to fashion. Whether it is who you are or who you were or who you want to be, if you look hard enough I think you’ll find something. I did.

Standing back from my own work I could recognise elements of me. At first I argued that it was a coincidence – and perhaps it is. In the same way psychic readings work, you can pretty much retrofit things to suit what you think or believe… was this what I was doing? After all, I have four main YA characters, so one of them at least will be familiar, surely?

windowI’m least like Poppy – bossy, confident, charismatic, and forthright. A leader. I think that is perhaps who I used to be. I remember being something like her when I was younger, the primary school years… the happier years, before secondary school crushed everything out of me. And then I became Russell. And Katrina (as if I wasn’t already). Russell, the quiet, studious, timid me (albeit with a tinderbox temper) who hates confrontation until pushed and takes all manner of crap.

In my head, though, I think I understand Katrina the most. A dreamer, for better or worse (better for her, worse for me), losing herself in other worlds, dreaming of magic and adventure, and of a life far more exciting than the ordinary one that she has. She wants to be special and chosen and to believe in something. Escape and adventure make her heart sing. And then she gets what she wants and starts to discover that adventure and magic aren’t as wonderful and glossy as they appear. Underneath them there is more than a little tarnish and plenty of darkness.

While reality and my own flaws and failures may have ground down that innocent, dreaming part of me, it is still there, in secret, just flickering like a guttering candle. I suppose we never really stop secretly hoping for that Hogwarts letter, or to run away dressed as a boy to train as a knight, or to find an old book called So You Want To Be A Wizard … or to find a hidden portal to a broken magical land, like Katrina and her friends. It’s why we love books, because through them we get to brush the face of the things we still dream about, even as we get older.

running

And Danny? Danny is the little bastard that I secretly wish I had been/could be more like. He doesn’t give a damn. Confrontation doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t live life plagued by fear. He is gutsy, mouthy, fiery, and fiercely defensive of the people he loves. He isn’t afraid to get into trouble (which happens often) – so at least he has stories to tell. I don’t, as I was too afraid of getting into trouble to ever make any.

Now, though, I write my own instead, and I can be forthright, or gutsy, or a hopeless dreamer. While I never would set out to deliberately put myself into my books, elements and shades of me, even the wishful ones, ended up in there anyway, somehow. But that’s okay. If dangerous quests, perilous sea voyages, and battles, blades, blood, and magic are wish fulfilment in some way, then I’ll take it. How else am I going to have the chance to do that stuff (especially without complaining about my bad knee)? But just for the record I would never eat a bowl of cereal with honey, cinnamon, sprinkles, chocolate chips and other crap on it. That’s pure Danny.

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